Sewing: bargello bag

Here you can see the nature of the strip-work that results in the bargello’s distinctive look.

There’s this style, or pattern called “bargello” in quilting is made by sewing together many strips (usually WOF or ‘width of fabric’ from selvedge to selvedge), and then sewing the wide band of cloth strips into a tube of some kind. The tube is then sliced into ‘doughnuts’ or rings, 2.5″ wide, 2″, 1.5″, 1″, 1.5″, 2″, 2.5″ and then back again. When disassembled along very specific lines, the ‘doughnuts’ become ribbons, which can then be aligned with the next cut ‘doughnut’, to create undulating diagonals of blocks. After I produced all those “grocery bags“, which I’ve also called community bags, I had a lot of scrap strips, of uneven widths but all roughly the same length. I decided to try out an experiment, and produce a bargello bag without following directions too closely — just use the principles of the process, rather than follow someone’s careful directions about how to produce exactly the right bargello pattern.

I think it’s a rather-stunning little bag, though it’s really too large for most uses, at least not without a shoulder strap or some method of carrying it that doesn’t involve extra-long drawstrings. As I made it, I figured out a couple of cool tricks to make putting on a drawstring tube a lot easier in the future (pre-make the tube, baste it in place to the shell, and then reinforce when the lining is added). The bag is beautiful and functional, and it represents the maximum use of scraps possible from the making of bags as a community resource. All in all, I’m pretty pleased with this little project.

Mostly, though, I’m pleased with how easy it was to make. Even as recently as a couple of years ago, this would have been many, many hours work to conceive, to plan, to sew, to think about, to undo stitches, to redo stitches, and to assemble to the point of ‘complete’. Tonight, I stitched the strips together, made the tube, cut the doughnuts, assembled the doughnuts, and assembled the bag, in less than three hours. From ideation to assembly to finished bag, really, in two and a half hours. Admittedly, I did start from cut strips (rather than having to cut first and then assemble) but it still came together quite well in a short time.

Something to bear in mind the next time I produce a lot of scraps from a project…

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